West Nile Encephalitis - Symptoms, Risk factors and Treatment

West Nile encephalitis is a type of encephalitis ( inflammation of the brain mostly due to viral infections) that occurs due to the West Nile virus. It is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. The West Nile virus is an arbovirus, which means it transmits from one animal host through insects. It is mainly transferred between pigeons and crows by ‘Culex’ mosquitoes. 


Symptoms 


The majority of people who get infected by the West Nile virus do not show any signs and symptoms. However, in some people, it may also cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). It may show other signs and symptoms like;


  • High temperature

  • Headache 

  • Body aches 

  • Skin rash 

  • Swollen lymph nodes


Encephalitis occurs when the virus enters the brain and causes its inflammation. When it causes encephalitis, the following signs and symptoms may occur. 


  • Muscle weakness

  • Paralysis 

  • Mild confusion 

  • Behavioral changes 

  • Seizures 

  • Coma 

  • Fever

  • Headache 

  • Problems with speech and hearing 

  • Agitation 

  • Hallucinations 


In infants and young children, it may represent as;


  • Bulging in the fontanels- soft spots of an infant skull

  • Body stiffness

  • Nausea 

  • Vomiting 

  • Poor feeding 

  • Irritability 


Causes 


The main cause of the West Nile virus in humans is a mosquito bite. The signs and symptoms may seem to appear after 1 to 6 days of a mosquito bite after the incubation period. Its spread mostly takes place in summers when feeding birds, mosquitos, and humans are in close proximity. In summers, people tend to spend more time outdoors, which eventually increases the risk for West Nile virus infection. 


West Nile virus can also be transmitted through an organ transplant. If the person who donates the organ has been infected with it and has no signs and symptoms, and the receiver has got the transplant done of the organ, the virus can be transmitted to the receiver. It will infect the donor and receiver both. 


West Nile virus is also found in breast milk. Therefore, a mother infected with it, should not feed the child, as it can transfer it to them. 



Treatment and prevention of West Nile encephalitis 


Until now, there is no such treatment for the West Nile virus. It is done symptomatically. The healthcare providers will manage the complications like fever, aches, low blood pressure, seizures, and blood loss. 


To prevent getting infected with the West Nile virus, you must try to protect yourself from a mosquito bite. While going out, wear a long-sleeved shirt and trousers that completely cover your skin. Also, try to avoid going out in the evening and at night. Avoid going out in winters when mosquitoes bite more frequently and in areas where stagnant water is present because the larvae of mosquitoes grow there. 


Conclusion 


West Nile encephalitis is a type of encephalitis (inflammation of the brain mostly due to viral infections) that occurs due to the West Nile virus. It is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. The West Nile virus is an arbovirus, which means it transmits from one animal host through insects. Until now, there is no such treatment for the West Nile virus. It is done symptomatically.


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